UCD could well end up as kingmakers this season as they effectively ended the title hopes of one club last night -- and now the Students turn their attention to three more title contenders over the coming weeks.
Bohemians went to the Belfield Bowl last night knowing that a win there, combined with a Dublin derby victory at home to St Patrick's Athletic next Friday, could potentially have put the Gypsies just one point off top spot in the table and given the cash-strapped Phibsboro club a real shot at the title. But Bohs came away with nothing, apart from a well-deserved beating, as UCD were more than worthy winners, second-half goals from Stephen Doyle (57 minutes) and Darren Meenan (83) giving UCD the points and their first win over a Dublin side this season.
Only three points separate the leaders (Sligo Rovers) from the fourth-placed side (St Pats), but the bad news for the contenders is that Pats, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo all have to play UCD before the season is out, and if Martin Russell's side come up with more displays like last night's impressive outing, then UCD are likely to have a big say in the destination of this season's title.
After next Friday's game against mid-table Dundalk, UCD's run of games is Bohs (away), St Pats and Shamrock Rovers (home) with a season finale away to current leaders Sligo. And UCD are more than capable of causing more problems, just as they did for Bohs last night as their faint hopes of a league title died.
"People might say that we have nothing to play for because we're safe from relegation, but our lads have reputations to play for and they showed that against Bohemians last night," said a delighted UCD boss Russell.
"If these boys want to have a career in football -- which they are capable of -- then they have to show that they have what it takes to play against the likes of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.
"What we want to do is give all of these teams a competitive game. There is no team in this league that will lie down and we certainly won't do that before the season is over. Any team who comes out to play us, whether they're mid-table or going for the league, we will give them a hard game.
"If they are good enough to beat us then well and good, but at this club we are challenging ourselves to compete with the best, so we'll see how we get on in the coming games," he added.
"We had a decent second half, scored two nice goals and could have scored some more. Stephen Doyle got in a great strike for his goal and Darren Meenan had a very nice finish.
"Those two will get the credit for the goals and rightly so, but the defenders deserve a mention too. Our defending in the second half was very composed and disciplined."
A dismal first half was instantly forgettable as Bohs struggled to create, and after the break UCD looked more lively, with Paul O'Conor and Doyle posing a threat before Doyle netted his first senior goal on 57 minutes. The Bohs defence was asleep as right back Hugh Douglas sent in a free kick and Doyle was able to get his shot past Barry Murphy.
Bohs keeper Murphy then pulled off two superb saves to deny Doyle and Meenan, while a rudderless Bohs side failed to get back into the game, and Meenan wrapped things up with UCD's second goal seven minutes from time.
That leaves Bohs seven points off the pace with five games left.
"We can't dwell on it, we have to try and bounce back against Pats on Friday," said Bohs defender Aidan Price. "We had a great chance here but we haven't given up on the league. Once it's mathematically possible we will fight on, we'll take it game by game and see if we can bounce back."